The NAHL finally released their 2013-2014 regular season schedule after long anticipation by it's fan's, reporters, players, teams, and everyone else involved with junior hockey.
Like all the teams this season in the NAHL, the Johnstown Tomahawks' have some interesting things on the schedule this year. For example, the Tomahawks will play the Wenatchee Wild a total of eight times. What makes this interesting is that the Wild are an out of division team and the only team the Tomahawks will play out of division other than the four games in the NAHL Showcase.
The Springfield Jr. Blues will only faceoff against the Johnstown Tomahawks a total of eight times. The Janesville Jets will only face the Tomahawks a total of four times, with all four games coming in the last month of the season. Both Janesville and Springfield are teams in Johnstown's own division, the north division.
That's not the most surprising thing from this season's schedule though. The Tomahawks will have an eleven game homstand that takes places October 24th thru November 23rd. After the long homstand, the Tomahawks won't play another game at home until the Johnstown hockey tradition, December 30/New Years Eve games.
This could provide to be a problem for the Tomahawks, having so many games at home in the beginning of the season.
For people not familiar with the city of Johnstown and Johnstown's hockey history, I'll fill you in. Johnstown and it's surround area is pretty big when it comes to high school football. During high school football season, the city's hockey team has always seen a dip in attendance.
Johnstown finished last season fifth in NAHL attendance, averaging 2,527 a game. In the first half of the season the Tomahawks' had an average attendance of 2,218 fans. This included the two games in the NAHL Showcase. Johnstown's average attendance for the second half of the season rose to an average of 2,799.
This isn't just something that happened last year. We looked back as far as we could (which only was the 2006-2007 season) and found the numbers looked just the same, except for the 2007-2008 season.
In 06-07 when the city called the Johnstown Chiefs their home town team, the team averaged 2,299 during the first half of the season. In the second half, the attendance rose to 2,878 a game.
The Chiefs played in the ECHL which had a 36 home game schedule compared to the Tomahawks who have a 28 home game schedule. Also remember, two of the home games aren't played "at home" but instead are played at the Showcase. Even though it's not a real home game, the league still uses the attendance at the showcase towards the overall home attendance of each club.
07-08 was the only season in recent history where the average went down from the first half to the second half. 2,510 to 2,183.
In 08-09 Johnstown's home attendance went from 2,079 in the first half to 2,345 in the second half.
The last season Johnstown had a hockey, team until the Tomahawks' came to town, was 2009-2010. The first half of the season saw an average of 2,003 fans per game, raising to 2,103.
Sure, this isn't a drastically large difference, but there is a difference.
How can the Tomahawks make sure this tend in Johnstown doesn't continue? Half of it has to do with the front office and the other has to do with the team itself.
There is no doubt that the team must perform early this season, as a lot of the games will take place on home ice. It's common sense for any team in any sport that, if you win, people would come to watch.
The second part of the equation is all about promotion. For the city of Johnstown, you can bank that the arena will be packed on opening night, and New Years Eve. The games in-between will be the games that the front office will focus on.
The work has already begun to bring the people into the Cambria County War Memorial Arena. Building off the momentum from last season the team has been very active in the community and have a game plan in place to expand their fan footprint.
Last season the Tomahawks' had Jack Hamm bobble head doll night, Mario Lemieux dropped the puck on opening night, Dog night, Pink in the rink, special jersey nights, among many other special promotions.
Look for the team to have even more exciting promotions earlier in the season to try and bring in crowds for the long early season homestand.
If the front office can continue to do the great work they have done so far in their short history, and the team on the ice can be as good as they look on paper, the Tomahawks' should be able to get fans to the area in the first half of the season.
With a strong first half, and the trend of having bigger crowds in the second part of the season, the Tomahawks' might just break last season's attendance totals.
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